We’re all adopters now – even if we don’t want to be

By Andy Lack, May 2020

I first wrote this blog at the end of last year after speaking at the 2019 MRS Financial Services Conference and I still think it was one of the most interesting FS Conferences I’ve been to!

I’ll leave it to others to decide how much our paper (a joint presentation by Jigsaw and RBS) added to the overall learning on the day, but I certainly came away with my thoughts having been provoked on more than one occasion.

The last couple of months have caused me to revisit some of the thinking I heard that day, especially around digital transformation and access to cash. It is increasingly obvious that the Coronavirus crisis is going to reshape all our lives, including our relationship with money and the wider financial sector.

Digital transformation was already underway on a large scale, but it now seems likely that trends and market forces that might have taken years to play out, could force their way through the sector in a few months. Ensuring no one is ‘left behind’ has always been an important consideration whenever new technology is being introduced, but is that consideration now being trumped by the very real risk to everyone’s personal health and how that is linked to how we behave in this new world.

For example, last year’s paper covering access to cash was fascinating, giving an insight into the vital role cash still plays for millions of people, from providing control of their finances through to simply being able to function in the society in which they live. Not everyone was ready to move away from cash but of course, the society in which they live has now been unexpectedly shaken up – so that the perceived advantages of cash may now be less important to some than the new risks associated with its usage… anecdotal evidence suggests that cashless purchasing has increased significantly, with contactless payments increasing their market share significantly.

This brought me back to thinking about our own paper – looking at adoption of the RBS mobile banking app through the lens of the adoption curve.

Our contention was that if you want your service channel to be embraced by large numbers of your customers, and for them to be happy about it, you need to create different adoption strategies for each group in the adoption curve. This might seem obvious, but we think it’s different in the financial sector than it is in the tech sector. Money is, for all of us, integral to the way we live but, for most of us, it’s not that interesting and is just a means to an end. So if you introduce new tech in the financial sector, and you want mass adoption, you need to consider all the adoption curve groups at the outset, and tailor your strategy to each, rather than simply aim at the early adopters and wait for everyone else to cotton on to the benefits of your new idea.

So, while the world slowly heads inexorably into a world of AI and chatbots, we need to think now about how this technology could benefit the later adopters, not simply wait for them to ‘catch up’. In financial services, that approach is likely to lead to a bunch of disgruntled consumers very quickly.

In our new locked down world, it’s a different picture. Financial security comes second to personal health – and if you can’t go to the branch then there’s a real need to do things remotely; and what better tool than your smartphone/tablet We’re also seeing an increase in the previously niche video banking channel – something that later adopters can find easier to accept if the thought of banking apps remains a step too far.

Perhaps the more interesting shift is that we now need to help people to access and use the technology, not because that fits a commercial goal – but because the technology is now a necessity for these laggards and late adopters. So it’s become almost a duty of care to get people to adopt the technology. Which means that strategies need to change – and research needs to deliver new insights to help us all become adopters.

For more information, contact Andy here.